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I'm Moving On - Is New England's On-and-Off Embrace of Gas-Fired Power Headed for a Fall?

The U.S. power sector’s shift to natural gas over the past few years has been a boon to gas producers across the Lower 48, especially in the Northeast. Scores of new gas-fired power plants have been built there during the Shale Era, and a number of coal-fired, oil-fired, and nuclear plants have been taken offline. New England is a case in point; gas-fired power now accounts for about half of the installed generating capacity in the six-state region (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) — three times what it was 20 years ago. But New Englanders have a love-hate relationship with natural gas, and with renewables and energy storage on the rise, gas’s role in the land of the Red Sox, hard-to-understand accents, and lobsta’ rolls may well have peaked. Today, we discuss recent developments on the natural gas and power generation fronts in the northeastern corner of the U.S.

Over the past few years, we’ve posted many blogs about New England’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure, which, despite the best efforts of midstreamers, has failed to keep pace with either the region’s shift to gas-fired power generation during the 2000s and ’10s or the growth in natural gas production from the Marcellus and Utica shale plays that sit at its doorstep. As we said in Please Come to Boston back in 2014, five pipeline systems provide the vast majority of New England’s gas: Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP; blue line in Figure 1) and Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT; green line) from the south, Iroquois Gas Transmission (IGT; lavender line) from the west through New York State, and Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline (MNP; pink line) along with Portland Natural Gas Transmission (PNGT; yellow line) from Canada, through New Brunswick and Quebec, respectively. There are also two LNG import terminals in the Boston, MA, area capable of importing LNG, regasifying it and then sending it out into the U.S. gas pipeline network during periods of high demand (see our You Dropped a Bomb on Me series). These are: Excelerate Energy’s Northeast Gateway Deepwater Port and Exelon Generation’s Everett terminal, which provides fuel for Exelon’s 1,400-megawatt (MW), gas-fired Mystic power plant (more on this in a moment) as well as gas to gas utilities. There’s also the Canaport LNG import terminal up in New Brunswick, from which regasified LNG can be piped down MNP into New England.

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